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Daily View: WikiLeaks' Afghanistan war logs

Clare Spencer | 09:41 UK time, Monday, 26 July 2010

US soldier walks past Afghans on a three-wheeler vehicle in Afghanistan Commentators wade through more than 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports about the Afghanistan conflict obtained by the whistleblowers' website Wikileaks and published in the Guardian, New York Times and Der Spiegel.

Tunku Varadarajan at the Daily Beast says the leaks show Islamabad is the "Taliban's faithful ally":

"In fact, one might say that the one good thing to come out of this latest leak - a thing so good that it is worth the 'collateral damage' to the US from everything else - is that it could spell the end of Pakistan's repulsive double game. This is a game in which that country takes billions of dollars of our aid money (money paid, in part, in taxes by the kin of American soldiers killed by the Taliban) and then blithely, devilishly, mendaciously stabs us in the back by arming, protecting, financing, hiding, and advising the same forces against whom this country is at war. We pay them money so that they can help our enemies kill us."

The Guardian editorial says the Afghanistan war logs highlight the risk to the US from Pakistan:

"But yesterday's White House response to the claims that elements of the Pakistan army had been so specifically linked to the militants made it plain that the status quo is unacceptable. It said that safe havens for militants within Pakistan continued to pose 'an intolerable threat' to US forces. However you cut it, this is not an Afghanistan that either the US or Britain is about to hand over gift-wrapped with pink ribbons to a sovereign national government in Kabul. Quite the contrary. After nine years of warfare, the chaos threatens to overwhelm. A war fought ostensibly for the hearts and minds of Afghans cannot be won like this."

Blake Hounshell says in Foreign Policy that the war logs don't tell us anything new:

"Otherwise, I'd say that so far the documents confirm what we already know about the war: It's going badly; Pakistan is not the world's greatest ally and is probably playing a double game; coalition forces have been responsible for far too many civilian casualties; and the United States doesn't have very reliable intelligence in Afghanistan...
"I do think that the stories will provoke a fresh round of Pakistan-bashing in Congress, and possibly hearings. But the administration seems inclined to continue with its strategy of nudging Pakistan in the right direction, and is sending the message: Move along, nothing to see here."

In the New Yorker Amy Davidson argues against the New York Times' conclusion that overall the documents do not contradict official accounts of the war:

"What does it mean to tell the truth about a war? Is it a lie, technically speaking, for the Administration to say that it has faith in Hamid Karzai's government and regards him as a legitimate leader - or is it just absurd? Is it a lie to say that we have a plan for Afghanistan that makes any sense at all? If you put it that way, each of the WikiLeaks documents - from an account of an armed showdown between the Afghan police and the Afghan Army, to a few lines about an local interdiction official taking seventy-five dollar bribes, to a sad exchange about an aid scam involving orphans - is a pixel in a picture that does, indeed, contradict official accounts of the war, and rather drastically so."

Simon Crowley suggests in Time magazine that even if the leaks don't reveal anything new, they can still have major consequences:

"Sometimes it can be crystallizing to see hard truths articulated not by reporters covering a war but in the real-time reports of the men and women on the ground. Moreover, the media frenzy about the documents--we're already seeing comparisons to the Vietnam-era Pentagon Papers - is bound to startle the public and put a further dent in support for the war.
"And that's not nothing. In recent months we've seen a steady drumbeat of bad headlines from Afghanistan, from the mixed success of the ballyhooed Marjah offensive to the spectacular flame out of General Stanley McChrystal. The Wikileak dump is certain to accelerate the feeling, both around the country and here in Washington, that the war effort isn't sustainable for much longer. And right now, the biggest secret of all, the one no one is leaking, is whether Barack Obama agrees."

Links in full

Tunku Varadarajan | Daily Beast | Pakistan's Shameful Double Dealing
Guardian | Afghanistan war logs: the unvarnished picture
Blake Hounshell | Foreign Policy | Do the Wikileaks documents tell us anything new?
Amy Davidson | New Yorker | WikiLeaks and the War
Michael Crowley | Time | What the Wikileak Means for the Afghanistan War

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